Twenty-six-year-old Ly Nha Ky, who owns two entertainment companies, has proved that she can act without ever taking professional acting classes. She is one of the first-ever Vietnamese actresses to perform in a Hollywood feature.
Possessing stunning looks, sexy eyes and full lips, Ly Nha Ky had already tasted success before she got her break in the film industry three years ago.
She left Vietnam to attend school in Germany when she was 16. The youngest daughter of a Russian father and a Vietnamese mother, Ky says she never thought of becoming an actress until she met a local filmmaker by chance when she visited her hometown in 2000.
Like supermodel Vu Thu Phuong, Ky was chosen to play a minor role in “Shanghai”, about the conflict between China and Japan in the Second World War. It stars big Asian names – Hong Kong’s Chow Yun-fat, Chinese mainland’s Gong Li and Japan’s Ken Watanabe – and American John Cusack.
In Harvey Weinstein’s US$42 million film to be released at the end of this year, and mainly shot in a Thailand film studio, Ky acts as an Asian model with alluring eyes.
“My part is just a minor one, with no lines but I am very happy because I had a chance to appear in world motion pictures and worked with famous movie stars,” Ky said about her 13 days shooting for the film.
“The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came unexpectedly,” she said.
“A beautiful day in March, when I was photographing for a magazine, I received a call from local film studio, Chanh Phuong, inviting me to dinner. They said it was just a normal dinner.
“When I arrived I was shocked to see many local stars like Ngo Thanh Van and Johnny Tri Nguyen, who were wearing suits, while I had come straight from a photography shoot. I was a little bit nervous.”
Ky said, “When the film representative approached each person, I moved away. He wondered why I tried to evade him. It was because I wasn’t prepared for such an opportunity.
“Surprisingly in July, I received a call from director Mikeal Hafstrom saying they had given me a role.
“My character is a minor one… but I am very happy… as it was a great experience,” Ky said
“I was overwhelmed by the film crew’s professionalism which included over 400 persons.”
“During the flight to Thailand, I didn’t feel anxious or proud of appearing in ‘Shanghai.’ I didn’t feel happy to be working with international movie stars. I was only concerned about how I would work, what I would do to show the international team that Vietnamese performers can work in a professional, serious manner,” she said.
“I focused, observed and learnt everywhere. I even studied how they arranged the sound, lighting and background. I discovered techniques that could be applied in Vietnam.
“Chow Yun-fat and I shared a scene, standing close together in a casino. Chow’s character was assassinated. I was right in front of him. The assassin shot over my shoulder to kill Chow.
“A fragment from the blank shot hit my left eye but I didn’t know and continued to work. Director Mikeal Hafstrom and all members in the film crew were concerned and asked me to see the doctor. But I didn’t go because I thought it would affect the schedule.”
She said the other actors expressed a lot of care about her injury.
Ky went to the hospital when she returned to Vietnam to remove the fragment from her eye. Ky said, “I am really happy because after each scene, I was given emotional encouragement, especially from director Mikeal Hafstrom. It gave me extra motivation even though they were all strangers.
“The talent of Hollywood film makers is that they create such a real background. Everything seemed real so the feeling of being scared and terrible was also real. The scenes of war, shooting, and death made me feel as if I was there.
“I was surprised when I looked at the film shots that I look so mature and become another person under the hand of the talented director.
“It was a big film crew but the schedule was very specific,” she said. “Every detail was coordinated. The stuntmen acted first so that the main characters could understand the action. They held frank discussions with the director to find the best way to perform. It’s really intellectual cooperation.”
Ky said, “For me, in 13 days, in spite of my small role, I learnt a number of lessons, especially more confidence in myself, future openings for me and for Vietnam movies. It proved that Vietnam movie stars are capable, but haven’t had many chances to develop their talent.
“American filmmakers are surveying the Asian market. This was the first time they came to Vietnam. At the end of this year, when ‘Shanghai’ is released, the filmmakers will see the public’s reaction. I hope that we now have two Vietnamese actresses and next year, 10-12 more, so that more Vietnamese actors/actresses will be able to appear in Hollywood films and Vietnamese motion pictures will cooperate with Hollywood.”
Reported by Luu Hong